NASA USES SANSKRIT TO PROGRAM ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
The extraordinary thing about Sanskrit is that it offers direct accessibility to anyone to that elevated plane where the two — mathematics and music, brain and heart, analytical and intuitive, scientific and spiritual— become one.
In the past twenty years, much time, effort, and money has been spent on designing an unambiguous representation of natural languages to make them accessible to computer processing. These efforts have centered around creating schemata designed to parallel logical relations with relations expressed by the syntax and semantics of natural languages, which are clearly cumbersome and ambiguous in their function as vehicles for the transmission of logical data. Understandably, there is a widespread belief that natural languages are unsuitable for the transmission of many ideas that artificial languages can render with great precision and mathematical rigor.
But this dichotomy, which has served as a premise underlying much work in the areas of linguistics and artificial intelligence, is a false one. There is at least one language, Sanskrit, which for the duration of almost 1,000 years was a living spoken language with a considerable literature of its own. Besides works of literary value, there was a long philosophical and grammatical tradition that has continued to exist with undiminished vigor until the present century. Among the accomplishments of the grammarians can be reckoned a method for paraphrasing Sanskrit in a manner that is identical not only in essence but in form with current work in Artificial Intelligence.
Indian media stated this connection between NASA and sanskrit in March 2012,”Very soon the traditional Indian language Sanskrit will be a part of the space, with the United States of America (USA) mulling to use it as computer language at NASA. After the refusal of the Indian Sanskrit scholars to help them acquire command over the language, US has urged its young generation to learn Sanskrit.”
According to Rick Briggs, Sanskrit is such a language in which a message can be sent by the computer in the least number of words.
After the refusal of Indian experts to offer any help in understanding the scientific concept of the language, American kids were imparted Sanskrit lessons since their childhood.
The NASA website also confirms its Mission Sanskrit and describes it as the best language for computers. The website clearly mentions that NASA has spent a large sum of time and money on the project during the last two decades.
The scientists believe that Sanskrit is also helpful in speech therapy besides helping in mathematics and science. It also improves concentration. The alphabets used in the language are scientific and their correct pronunciation improves the tone of speech. It encourages imagination and improves memory retention also.
It is also called deva-bhasha meaning the “divine language.”
he word Sanskrit means completed, refined, perfected. Sum (Complete) + krt (created).
Sanskrit is a historical Indic language, one of the liturgical languages of Hinduism and Buddhism, and one of the oldest languages in the world, and in use since 1200 BC as the religious and classical literary language of Indian Subcontinent. This language contrasted with the languages spoken by the people, Prakrit – “Prototype, natural, artless, normal, ordinary” Sanskrit was created and then refined over many generations (traditionally more than a thousand years) until it was considered complete and perfect.
Sanskrit is generally written in the syllabic Devanagari script composed of 51 letters or aksharas. The Sanskrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is of a wonderful structure; more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin, and more exquisitely refined than either.
WHAT IS SO ‘SCIENTIFIC’ ABOUT SANSKRIT ?
“Sanskrit is the ideal language for computer science” is a view that is so widespread in India, that my mother, who is 70, and knows little about Sanskrit, and even less about computer science, passionately believes this, and I can’t convince her otherwise. Indians are in love with the concept that things invented in India 2000 years ago are still better than the best that the western world can throw at us today.
A broader question is the one that ZeusIsDead asked: what is so ‘scientific’ about Sanskrit?
As far as I can tell, there are two interesting aspects to Sanskrit:
- Sanskrit is the first language to have a formal grammar defined; and there is evidence that Pāṇini’s work in this area influenced modern linguists like de Saussure and Chomsky. (And oh,Devanagari is awesome)
- One guy in NASA in the 80s tried to push Sanskrit as an ideal language for Artificial Intelligence applications; he was neither able to convince the AI community of this, nor was he able to make much headway in this himself. This approach is largely dead, but Indian media and the ancient-Indians-were-the-best crowd did not get the memo.
In short: Pāṇini’s Grammar for Sanskrit was a phenomenal work that probably influenced modern linguists, but it is not particularly useful in Computer Science.
Influence of Sanskrit on Modern Linguistics
Pāṇini’s work became known in 19th-century Europe, where it influenced modern linguistics initially through Franz Bopp, who mainly looked at Pāṇini. Subsequently, a wider body of work influenced Sanskrit scholars such as Ferdinand de Saussure, Leonard Bloomfield, and Roman Jakobson. Frits Staal (1930-2012) discussed the impact of Indian ideas on language in Europe. After outlining the various aspects of the contact, Staal notes that the idea of formal rules in language – proposed by Ferdinand de Saussure in 1894 and developed by Noam Chomsky in 1957 – has origins in the European exposure to the formal rules of Pāṇinian grammar
How exactly did this influence modern linguists?
In particular, de Saussure, who lectured on Sanskrit for three decades, may have been influenced by Pāṇini and Bhartrihari; his idea of the unity of signifier-signified in the sign somewhat resembles the notion of Sphoṭa. More importantly, the very idea that formal rules can be applied to areas outside of logic or mathematics may itself have been catalyzed by Europe’s contact with the work of Sanskrit grammarians
Here, an important connection to computer science also can be seen:
Pāṇini’s grammar is the world’s first formal system, developed well before the 19th century innovations of Gottlob Frege and the subsequent development of mathematical logic. In designing his grammar, Pāṇini used the method of “auxiliary symbols”, in which new affixes are designated to mark syntactic categories and the control of grammatical derivations. This technique, rediscovered by the logician Emil Post, became a standard method in the design of computer programming languages. Sanskritists now accept that Pāṇini’s linguistic apparatus is well-described as an “applied” Post system. Considerable evidence shows ancient mastery of context-sensitive grammars, and a general ability to solve many complex problems. Frits Staal has written that “Pāṇini is the Indian Euclid.”
Sanskrit as an ideal language for AI applications
In 1985, Rick Briggs wrote a paper for the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence titled Knowledge Representation in Sanskrit and Artificial Intelligence. At that time, AI researchers were focused on trying to construct artificial languages that could be used in AI so that computers would not have to deal with the ambiguities of real languages. Briggs argued that instead of constructing artificial languages, we could simply use a highly structured language like Sanskrit.
Here is what he wrote in the abstract:
In the past twenty years, much time, effort, and money has been expended on designing an unambiguous representation of natural languages to make them accessible to computer processing. These efforts have centered around creating schemata designed to parallel logical relations with relations expressed by the syntax and semantics of natural languages, which are clearly cumbersome and ambiguous in their function as vehicles for the transmission of logical data. Understandably, there is a widespread belief that natural languages are unsuitable for the transmission of many ideas that artificial languages can render with great precision and mathematical rigor.
But this dichotomy, which has served as a premise underlying much work in the areas of linguistics and artificial intelligence, is a false one. There is at least one language, Sanskrit, which for the duration of almost 1,000 years was a living spoken language with a considerable literature of its own. Besides works of literary value, there was a long philosophical and grammatical tradition that has continued to exist with undiminished vigor until the present century. Among the accomplishments of the grammarians can be reckoned a method for paraphrasing Sanskrit in a manner that is identical not only in essence but in form with current work in Artificial Intelligence. This article demonstrates that a natural language can serve as an artificial language also, and that much work in AI has been reinventing a wheel millenia old.
The fact that someone from NASA (NASA!!!!) wrote this, and he claimed that Sanskrit is better than the efforts of modern researchers, gave the ancient-India-was-awesome crowd, and Indian media a collective orgasm. The web is full of people claiming that Sanskrit is the ideal language for computers, and if you follow the trail of references, all roads lead to this one paper by Briggs. (It is important to note that NASA itself has no official position on this; also, random rumors on the web about some “Mission Sanskrit” by NASA are hoaxes.)
Unfortunately for Briggs and for Sanskrit, this effort never did pan out. Looking at modern AI and natural language processing research, one is hard pressed to find any papers that reference Sanskrit in anything other than simple translation of Sanskrit or other Indian languages.
गत दिनों आगरा दौरे पर आए अरविंद फाउंडेशन [इंडियन कल्चर] पांडिचेरी के निदेशक संपदानंद मिश्रा ने ‘जागरण’ से बातचीत में यह रहस्योद्घाटन किया। उन्होंने बताया कि नासा के वैज्ञानिक रिक ब्रिग्स ने 1985 में भारत से संस्कृत के एक हजार प्रकांड विद्वानों को बुलाया था। उन्हें नासा में नौकरी का प्रस्ताव दिया था। उन्होंने बताया कि संस्कृत ऐसी प्राकृतिक भाषा है, जिसमें सूत्र के रूप में कंप्यूटर के जरिए कोई भी संदेश कम से कम शब्दों में भेजा जा सकता है। विदेशी उपयोग में अपनी भाषा की मदद देने से उन विद्वानों ने इन्कार कर दिया था।
इसके बाद कई अन्य वैज्ञानिक पहलू समझते हुए अमेरिका ने वहां नर्सरी क्लास से ही बच्चों को संस्कृत की शिक्षा शुरू कर दी है। नासा के ‘मिशन संस्कृत’ की पुष्टि उसकी वेबसाइट भी करती है। उसमें स्पष्ट लिखा है कि 20 साल से नासा संस्कृत पर काफी पैसा और मेहनत कर चुकी है। साथ ही इसके कंप्यूटर प्रयोग के लिए सर्वश्रेष्ठ भाषा का भी उल्लेख है।
स्पीच थैरेपी भी : वैज्ञानिकों का मानना है कि संस्कृत पढ़ने से गणित और विज्ञान की शिक्षा में आसानी होती है, क्योंकि इसके पढ़ने से मन में एकाग्रता आती है। वर्णमाला भी वैज्ञानिक है। इसके उच्चारण मात्र से ही गले का स्वर स्पष्ट होता है। रचनात्मक और कल्पना शक्ति को बढ़ावा मिलता है। स्मरण शक्ति के लिए भी संस्कृत काफी कारगर है। मिश्रा ने बताया कि कॉल सेंटर में कार्य करने वाले युवक-युवती भी संस्कृत का उच्चारण करके अपनी वाणी को शुद्ध कर रहे हैं। न्यूज रीडर, फिल्म और थिएटर के आर्टिस्ट के लिए यह एक उपचार साबित हो रहा है। अमेरिका में संस्कृत को स्पीच थेरेपी के रूप में स्वीकृति मिल चुकी है।
– साभार जागरण